Jaipur has long been a stalwart on most tourists itineraries that head to India. Just a stones throw, well a long stones throw, 4 hours by rail in fact, from Agra it is the natural choice for those looking for a slice of India in just a couple of weeks.
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is a seamless combination of uber modern shopping malls, world class hotels and centuries old forts, palaces and a pink city that is actually orange. Having been previously I knew where we wanted to go, where we didn’t want to and so came up with a walking tour for those that want an amazing day, on foot, taking in most of the cities history. For the most part you need cash, so stock up prior to setting out.
Time: Full Day
Start: Bottom of Nahargarh rd
Finish: Water Palace or the Pink City
The walk begins at the bottom of a number of killer switch backs that wind their way painfully up to Nahargarh fort that sits atop a hill offering gorgeous views out over the Pink City. The walk is tough, especially on a hot day/humid morning. Bring water!
At the fort there is a restaurant and a great place to pick up breakfast. If you are new to India I suggest ‘aloo parantha’ (spellings vary) but it is basically potato stuffed chapatti. Cheap, tasty and easy on the stomach.
After spending time exploring the fort come back out and walk along the road sign posted for ‘Jaigarh Fort’. If you are unsure, there will be plenty of guys lingering around who will gladly point you in the right direction. You may get told it is 9km or even longer, it isn’t. It is 5km to the junction then a further 500m to the fort.
I strongly suggest you buy water from Nahargah Fort, there is no shop en route. If you feel like a snack, women sell grilled corn for 10 rupees per cob at the junction.
Walking along the road you will notice that save for the odd car driving past, you are pretty much alone. The trees open up every few hundred metres offering up great views over the city and eventually over the absolutely gorgeous water palace. The route itself is pretty flat with the occasional up or downhill, but very easy to walk as the road is well paved. After around a kilometre you will see a structure protruding above the trees. This is Mandir Sati Mata and entrance is free. Though it seems like there isn’t much to see, if you walk behind the temple you will find a staircase that leads to the top of a great lookout.
Continuing on, and another km down the road you arrive at Charan Mandir, a temple like complex completely empty save for a caretaker relaxing in the grounds and soaking up the sun’s rays. Entrance is free. This is the perfect place to hit the toilet as you will notice from the stench. The only problem is, there isn’t actually a toilet, just a wall stained with decades of urine.
Eventually peacocks start to appear and monkeys begin to look suspiciously from trees at anything loose you are carrying.
Continuing on the road splits, you are at the junction for Jaingarh fort.
You really can’t miss Jaingarh Fort, home to the largest cannon on earth (according to themselves) it is a huge Fort with pretty much nothing inside except for wonderful views, a suspect cannon and a great stop for lunch. Entrance is 100 rupees per adult and 45 rupees for children.
Looking down the hill from Jaingarh Fort you will notice a sand looking coloured, palace type mega building. It is in-fact the world famous, and perhaps most beautiful fort in the whole of India; Amber Fort. The reason tourists have been making their way to Jaipur and a place that spawned mass tourism to the region. Look beyond the fort and notice the wall fringed ridges in the distance. It really does take a second look to realise just how beautiful place you are in.
There is a downhill road from Jaingarh that will take you right to the entrance courtyard of the Amber Fort (pronounced Amer Fort). The cobbled road travels from one fort to another and is frequented by elephants accompanied by monkeys, cows and the odd lost looking goat.
Entrance to Amber fort is a steep 750 rupees per adult and 450 rupees per child. You really could spend half a day exploring the many courtyards, alleys and rooms in the Amber fort. And you may choose to end your walk here. If that is the case, jump in a tuk tuk, ask for a photo stop at the water palace and then onwards to city palace. It should costs about 100 rupees, but you will be lucky to get it for sub 250 rupees.
From the Amber fort come down to the rickshaw park, and follow the steps up behind. It is a steep walk up to the top of the ridge opposite the fort. Stunning views, and a realisation that all the day trippers missed this bit. Descend the same way you came up.
If you chose to walk, keep the Amber fort to your right hand side and head along the road as it winds up the hill and onto the water palace. This obligatory photo stop is simply beautiful and a real piece of India. Kids will show you magic tricks, you can buy good local food, crafts and all at rock bottom (hard bargained) prices. If your legs need a rest you can hop on a camel, or choose to jump on one of the many rammed buses that will spot you and then offer you a standing space for 10 rupees. If you continue walking you are around half an hour from the city palace.
Keep walking in the same direction and when you see the streets to get busy, as though you are coming to a bazaar, and you can see huge city walls ask someone to point you in the direction of ‘City Palace’. Everyone knows where it is, and eventually you will get to it. Once there you are at the heart of the Pink City, close to Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Iswari Minar Swarga. Here you can take in the best of the Pink City and stroll the chaotic streets.
It will likely be early evening and if you have walked the entire route a good meal will be in order. My recommendation is Peacock Restaurant at the Pearl Palace hotel. Reservations are sometimes needed so maybe book ahead, or turn up and hope. But they sell the most amazing chicken tikka I have ever had, and, since we usually go vegetarian in India it is one of just a handful of places I trust the meat.
Jaipur is probably the most walkable city in the entire country and home to arguably the best of India.
Just remember to pack comfortable shoes, plenty of water and sun lotion.